Akin struck a combative, anti-Washington tone in the speech, calling for smaller government and excoriating the Obama administration for its handling of an attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Libya. He said it was “inexcusable” for the president “to betray fellow Americans to terrorists when they could have been rescued.” Senior Pentagon and CIA officials have said repeatedly that they did not have forces in place that could respond fast enough to halt the attack on the post in Benghazi.
Akin ended his speech by praising supporters who had bucked calls from Republican Party leaders for him to abandon his candidacy after his rape remarks. “Washington doesn’t need more money, it needs more courage,” he said.
The Missouri race was echoed in Indiana, where Democrats picked up a Senate seat with the victory of Rep. Joe Donnelly over Republican Richard Mourdock. Mourdock’s campaign stumbled badly after he said in October that pregnancy resulting from rape was “something God intended.”
His remarks did not bring the same kind of wide condemnation as Akin’s, but they appeared to shift the race to Donnelly.
The tea party-backed state treasurer had handily won the Republican primary over Sen. Richard G. Lugar, a six-term moderate. Ten days after his pregnancy remarks, polls showed Mourdock trailing Donnelly by 11 points.
The remarks turned the two races into touchstones in this year’s gender battles. The results, in states that the Republicans had long counted on, helped ensure they would not win the four seats needed to retake the Senate majority from Democrats.
Akin’s troubles began in August, when he defended his staunch opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, and insisted in a TV interview that pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape” was rare because women’s bodies were able to prevent it.
“From what I understand from doctors . . . if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin said.
Top Republicans, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, tried to drive Akin from the race, demanding that he quit and denying him millions of dollars in promised campaign funds. GOP officials were gambling that distancing themselves from Akin, who had become something of a national laughingstock, would give them a better chance of winning the presidency as well as seats in other close Senate races.
McCaskill spent four times as much as the underfunded challenger, portraying him as an extremist who wanted to abolish the minimum wage, end federally subsidized school lunch programs and eliminate federally backed student loans.